I am a native New Yorker, and when I am there and the weather is fine, I can’t imagine loving any other city as much. But the truth is that I just might love New Orleans a little bit more. I love the food, the art, the music, the architecture, the food, the drinks, the street musicians, the lack of snow, and the food. I love the mix of slow-moving Southern with fast-paced urban. As many writers have observed, this is the most European and/or Caribbean of American cities. A few days in New Orleans always leaves me overstuffed, exhausted, and wanting more. I’m grateful that Rob Kellner has chosen to study and live in New Orleans, affording me a reason to visit four or five times a year. I want everyone I know, and especially everyone I love, to love New Orleans too. I want to bring friends and family here and show them all my favorite corners, buildings, and foods. In lieu of that, what follows is a list of a few of my recommendations for visitors to New Orleans. This initial list grew out of some suggestions to my friend Barb, who will be visiting New Orleans for a few days with family, including a teenage daughter, and without a car. These suggestions stay close to the tourist-centric French Quarter, with a toe-dipping into the CBD, Marigny, Warehouse District, Garden District, and Uptown.
Things to do not necessarily in order of preference but in order of my stream of consciousness:
- Stroll down Royal Street and poke into antique stores, galleries, and upscale souvenir shops. There should be musicians playing outside the Rouse’s supermarket at 701 Royal St. If you’re lucky, it will be Miss Doreen Ketchins, clarinetist, and her band. http://www.doreensjazz.com/
- The National World War II Museum. Worth a trip. I’ve spent days here and haven’t seen it all. http://www.nationalww2museum.org/index.html They have a great restaurant and bar as well – http://www.nationalww2museum.org/american-sector/index.html
- While walking on Magazine Street to or from the WWII Museum, visit the galleries on and around Julia Street. Stop by the amazing glassworks to watch glass blowing for free. http://neworleansglassworks.com/
- Get on a street car on St. Charles Ave (across Canal St. from the FQ) and ride uptown to look at the Garden District, or, further on, Audubon Park and Loyola and Tulane Universities. Tulane has a small art museum that is free and open to the public: https://newcombartmuseum.tulane.edu/
- Take a self-guided walking tour of the Garden District and Lafayette #1 Cemetery: http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/self-guided-garden-district/
- Or, take a self-guided walking tour of the French Quarter: http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/things-to-do-in-the-french-quarter/
- Visit the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, near the WWII museum. Lovely museum, usually has an outstanding photography exhibit. http://ogdenmuseum.org/
- Spend an evening at the Rock’n’Bowl on Carrolton. Live music, huge dance floor, great bar, good food, and bowling. Thursday is Zydeco night, sometimes Sundays, too. http://www.rocknbowl.com
- Take a stroll on Frenchmen Street, which has the greatest concentration of music venues in the city. Rule of thumb: if they serve food, your kids can enter. If they don’t or it is after hours, they can’t. http://frenchmenstreetlive.com/
- Tour some historic houses. www.hgghh.org www.bkhouse.org http://louisianastatemuseum.org/museums/1850-house/
- Check out the Visitor’s Bureau to see what’s happening during your stay: http://www.neworleanscvb.com/
Hotels. There are hundreds of hotels to choose from, and dozens of guest houses and inns. Here are listed a very few in or right near the French Quarter, but not on Bourbon Street, and is by no means an exhaustive list.
- Dauphin Orleans – www.dauphineorleans.com On a quiet street in the French Quarter, away from the madness but in easy walking distance of everything.
- Hotel Provincial – www.hotelprovincial.com On Chartres Street, a few blocks from Jackson Square. This is where I stayed the first time I visited New Orleans. A block from the French Market, a few blocks from Frenchman St. Charming.
- Hotel St. Marie – www.hotelstmarie.com On the CBD side of the French Quarter, part of the lovely Valentino hotel group
- Royal Barracks Guest House – rbgh.com In a quiet residential neighborhood of the French Quarter. A bit quirky and funky, with an engaging hostess.
- La Galerie Hotel – used to be Maison Dupuy. New management who seem very enthusiastic and committed to a good experience for guests. In a quiet corner of the FQ. http://www.lagaleriehotel.com/
- Homewood Suites on Poydras – a very different experience from the above hotels, it is big and clean and just like any other Homewood Suites except it’s in New Orleans. Includes breakfast.
- Hampton Inn on Carondolet – again, a chain hotel, but an interesting one, in a converted old office building which at 12 stories was once the tallest building in the city. Some of the rooms are enormous. Breakfast included. Very convenient to both the French Quarter and the CBD. One block to the start of the St. Charles streetcar line.
Food. Dear Lord, where do I begin? There is so much good food to be had in New Orleans. There is also plenty of mediocre food, so do your research. Note: pretty much any Brennan family restaurant is going to rock. This tribe has a true appreciation of good living, or what the late diva Adelaide Brennan called “eating, drinking, and carrying on!”
Here is a map of restaurants and bars that I have enjoyed: Ellen’s NOLA Dining Map
- Commander’s Palace. This is the Queen of the Brennan family, the flagship. Eating at Commander’s is an event, and the food is outstanding. Feel free to wander into the kitchen to thank them after your meal – it is open by policy. You might be lucky enough to bump into Chef Tory McPhail, as I did last January. Expect to drop quite a bit of money, but it will be worth it. And you will never forget it. http://www.commanderspalace.com/
- Pêche. My mouth waters just thinking of our last meal there, which was lunch at the bar. Gorgeous restored warehouse building, light and airy. Get the brussels sprouts. You can thank me later. http://www.pecherestaurant.com/
- Cochon. Older sibling to Pêche, from restauranteur Donald Link, but with a focus on pork instead of fish. You can smell Cochon from several blocks away. If you want a grab and go meal instead of restaurant dining, check out Cochon Butcher around the corner. http://www.cochonrestaurant.com/ http://www.cochonbutcher.com/
- Cafe Adelaide. Named for Adelaide Brennan, and with her Andy-Warhol-style portrait gracing the walls. Certainly on my short list of favorite New Orleans restaurants, and with a lovely bar. It’s like eating at Commander’s but closer to your hotel, and lighter, what they call “playful Creole.” If you go midday, here or at Commander’s, you can get 25-cent martinis with your lunch, but no more than three, “’cause that’s enough.” And it is. Believe me. http://www.cafeadelaide.com/
- Felix Oyster Bar. On Iberville Street between Bourbon and Royal there are two Oyster houses facing each other, Acme and Felix. Acme is the one you’ve seen on The Food Network, and it will usually have a long line of folks waiting to get in. Skip it. Cross over to Felix on the other side. Less neon. Less famous. At worst a short line on a busy Saturday night. Amazing food. Chuck, Rob, and I polished off three dozen chargrilled oysters in one sitting. Huge ones, because Mr. G, the oyster chef, liked us and picked the biggest oysters he could find for us. Damn, my mouth is watering again. http://www.felixs.com/
- Red Fish Grill. Try the BBQ oysters, oh my! Like buffalo wings, but oysters. Yum. Great bar as well. My friend Carolyn and I started around the corner at Felix for our first course, then settled in later at Red Fish Grill’s bar for a second course. http://www.redfishgrill.com/index2.html
- The Praline Connection. Classic New Orleans soul food, on Frenchmen Street. I’m especially fond of the collard greens, fried chicken livers, and catfish. http://www.pralineconnection.com/
- Mother’s. Line up, and while you’re waiting read over the enormous menu that will be handed to you when you walk in. If you’re not ready to order when you get to the register, move back until you are. Order your food, pick up your drinks, and find a table. Don’t worry, there are plenty of empty tables in the back. A waitress will bring your order to you no matter where you sit. Have the Ferdi Special. You’re welcome. http://www.mothersrestaurant.net/
- Salon by Sucre. Sucre is an exquisite bakery specializing in French macarons. Upstairs is the Salon, which is a beautiful restaurant and bar. Stop by for a drink, an appetizer, or a whole meal. Save room for a macaron for dessert – luckily they don’t take up much space. http://www.restaurantsalon.com/
- Cafe du Monde. This is not a meal, unless you usually eat donuts and coffee for a meal. I don’t judge. For me, this is dessert, snack, and people-watching. Beignets are fried dough, traditionally eaten here with cafe au lait. You’ll want to order a glass of water, too. Don’t wear black – these beignets are doused with powdered sugar. http://www.cafedumonde.com/
- Dat Dog. If I were to create a hot dog stand, this would be it. As casual as the day is long, with indoor and outdoor seating. Great bar, with about 30 different beers, good wine, and a solid cocktail menu. Endless combinations of sausages, toppings, breads – if it’s too much to choose from, just ask for the chef’s choice. They’ll whip up something guaranteed to be wacky and delicious. http://www.datdog.com/
- Willa Jean. Willa Jean is a member of John Besh’s family of restaurants. It is loud and light and has amazing food. We went for brunch. Have the artichoke and cheese business. Also the frosé is delightful. I found Besh’s flagship August to be stuffy and pretentious (I’ll have to go back to prove myself wrong), but I love Luke on St. Charles, and now I love Willa Jean. http://www.willajean.com/
- The Pelican Club. I love The Pelican Club. It is on the lovely little alley called Exchange Place in the FQ, and if you weren’t looking for it, you wouldn’t know it was there. Inside it is bigger than it looks on the outside. It is elegant without being in the least bit pretentious. The food is outstanding. http://www.pelicanclub.com/
I could go on. And on. I’ll stop now, but will add to this list occasionally.